Ten Presbyterian Colleges and Universities have been selected to attend the Interfaith Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. this weekend (October 22-24). Chaplains and students from Agnes Scott, Carroll, Coe, The College of Wooster, Macalester, Mary Baldwin, Maryville, Rhodes, Schreiner and Westminster will join about 100 other delegations from colleges and universities.
The event, sponsored by Interfaith Youth Core (IFCY), the White House and its faith based community initiative office, will provide leadership training designed, according to information on its website, "to give student leaders and campus staff allies the vision, knowledge and skills necessary to lead interfaith and community service initiatives on campus." Interfaith Youth Core Founder Eboo Patel, voted one of America’s best leaders in 2009, created the organization to bring people together from different religious backgrounds, creating opportunities for them to understand and respect each other, by serving their communities.
The Rev. Kristin Hutson, chaplain at Coe College in Cedar Rapids Iowa is thrilled to have this opportunity. "We don't have a critical mass of students with diverse traditions," she says. "To be at the forefront of a movement, that is based on action and building friendship, will be a great educational piece for all of our students." Hutson gives credit to the Office of Collegiate Ministries for recognizing the value of Presbyterian students engaged in interfaith learning. "They offered to pay travel expenses for one student and campus minister from each Presbyterian college that was selected," she says. "Most of my colleagues are bringing two students, which is huge. This generation of students wants to be in community with each other, and with every tradition."
Associate for Collegiate Ministries Adrian McMullen says he was talking with Interfaith Youth Core about ways to introduce what they do to some of the campus ministries on Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) related campuses, when the D.C. event came up. "It seemed like a perfect fit, because we have resources designated for multicultural initiatives to use for training like this." says McMullen. "Kristin Hutson was telling me 'how students today have an openness about them that is authentic and heartfelt, and seeks reconciliation and connection to all people.' Student leaders from our PC(USA) campuses should benefit greatly from this. I like IFCY's official stance — all interfaith activity should be based on respective faiths being strong in their tradition — meaning they want our students to be as committed to Christ as possible."
McMullen says special opportunities like this are impossible for students and families to afford while they are paying for college. "These deeply meaningful experiences for students are only possible through generous gifts like the one that was given," he says. Our office faces declining financial resources. Our long-term endowments are being depleted and continuing available funds are tightly restricted by original donor intentions. I think it is imperative that we invest all we can in this age group developing leaders from this generation of students for ministry in the 21st century."